The second annual summit of the First Givers Club brought together more than 65 members to hear from India’s eminent philanthropists and non-profit leaders on Aug 1st 2011. The theme of the conference this year was Measuring Impact. The platform gave the members an opportunity to hear some of the experts talk about how to go about doing it the right way. The speakers at the summit were Mr. Azim Premji, Chairman, Wipro, Mr. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, Primary Investor and Visionary, Dr. Abhijeet Banerjee, Co-founder, J-PAL, MIT, Mr. Ramji Raghavan, Founder, Agastya International Foundation, Shaheen Mistri, CEO, Teach for India. Mr. Indrajit Gupta, Editor, Forbes-India and Mr. Stan Thekaekara joined Mr. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and Dr. Abhijit Banerjee for a concluding panel discussion on measuring impact moderated by Mr. Venkat Krishnan, Director, GiveIndia.
Mr. N Vaghul, Chairman, GiveIndia extended a warm and hearty welcome to the members of First Givers Club summit and reflected on what the club has achieved in the year 2011-12. Mr. Vaghul said, “…in a very significant way First Givers Club was a success. We were able to channelize Rs. 3 Cr. Not a very large sum of money, but that sum of money is still a very important sum of money for the benefit of society. I’m sure that as we move along this path we will mobilize more and more and we will to a certain extent contribute to the amelioration of the suffering and the poverty of the people.”
Start small and commit sometime
Mr. Azim Premji delivered his keynote address through video conferencing from Bangalore. He talked about his initiation into the concept of giving and how he had grown with it. “People like me who have amassed wealth have enormous responsibility to do something. It is also essential to commit time and not just money. Personal leadership on the field is critical and cannot be reduced ”, shared Mr. Premji. He currently spends 15% of his time on philanthropy. “I will increase this as we scale up”, says Mr. Premji. He shared his decade long learnings from working in the sector with the members. Mr. Premji highlighted, as one of his learnings, that not everything that is applicable in the business sector can be applied to the social sector. And this is simply because the parameters are completely different. Read More>>
Giving is a very big purpose in life
“I give because I think it’s a duty, I give because God has given me far more wealth than I need, I give because of my father’s teachings, and I give because the giver of this wealth is God and he has casted duty that I must share it” shared Mr. Rakesh Jhujhunwala. Giving, he said, is like going on a date. You go on a date, then get engaged and then get married. You start somewhere, and once you start enjoying it, you continue with it.
Mr. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala pledged to give away 25 % of his wealth to charity at the summit.
Talking about his support to Agastya International Foundation, Mr. Jhunjhunwala said, that he visited the campus once or twice. “All NGOs, just as in business, have problems of scale. The scale has two problems viz. money and people. To go beyond a scale you need commitment for administrative expenditure. People need to earn living wage”, said Mr. Jhunjhunwala. Just as he does his investment, he looks at the company, the entrepreneur and the management, and then leaves the rest to his trust in God. Similarly he chooses a cause, the right crusader, and puts his trust in them.
Intuition is not good enough, but the measurement is
Dr. Abhijit Banerjee, co-founder MIT-JPAL, highlighted the importance of measurement and how one should always be suspicious about numbers. Based on his experience of working with NGOs since last 15-16 years he feels that intuition is not good enough, but the measurement is. Dr. Banerjee emphasizes, “Donors need to be informed and skeptical consumers”, adding that they should always question the data that is presented to them, else, “they will end up believing all kinds of stories.” The donors therefore should be creative at measuring the impact by asking the right questions and at every level. It is crucial to decide what we value and what we want to measure and not the other way round.
Sparking the Curiosity
Mr. Ramji Raghvan, founder, Agastya International Foundation, spoke about how the traditional education system suppresses curiosity among children and how this, in turn, suppresses innovation. Agastya aims to spark the curiosity among millions of children in India. It runs one of the largest hands on science education programme. Curiosity, the spirit of inquiry can lead to creativity at a mass scale. It’s the curiosity that led two of the students of Agastya who were sitting beneath a tree in a tree wonder why it was cooler beneath tree than standing out in soon. The curiosity to find out this helped them bag the national IRIS (Initiative for Research & Innovation in Science) awards. Ms. Poornima Chandrashekhar, the 14 year old beneficiary of Agastya’s programme, shared her story of winning the Intel IRIS prize for innovative fire extinguisher project. Addressing the audience she said that she holds first rank in her school and does not have stage fear today due to the efforts and support of Agastya.
Ending the educational inequity
Ms. Shaheen Mistri, CEO, Teach for India, spoke about how the Teach for India fellow are working to transform lives, keeping the child at the centre. Teach for India is a nationwide movement of outstanding college graduates and young professionals who will commit two-years to teach full-time in under resourced schools and who will become lifelong leaders working from within various sectors toward the pursuit of equity in education. Ms. Shaheen iterated on the statistics that 94% of children don’t complete school which according to her is that 94 % of India’s talent is not maximized. She talked about the complexities involved in measurement. Measuring values and mindsets, and changes in these values and mindsets or measuring change in aspirations and ambitions adds to these complexities. Teach for India fellow, Ms. Venil Ali also briefly spoke about transforming self, class, school and country through her experiences.
Poverty is not just about number, but a lived experience
Towards the end of the evening, an interesting panel discussion on measuring impact was moderated by Venkat Krishnan, Director, GiveIndia. Abhijit Banerjee, Indrajit Gupta, Venkat Krishnan, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and Stan Thekaekara discussed how the impact of philanthropy can be measured and how it can prove to be of significance. Mr. Thekaekara emphasized that poverty in not just about number – like the government figures – but a lived experience. He went on to add that data at the end of the day does not tell the entire story and explained the difference between counting and impact measurement. The panel discussion was made interesting through diverse view-points of agreement and disagreements on need to measure impact and the quantitative vs. qualitative nature of measurements.